“I know that I need SEO for my website… but how do I know who I can trust, and how much I should really be paying?”
In this article you will learn:
- what to look for in setting goals
- How to identify valueless services and learn
- How much you should expect to pay for high quality SEO
A widely adopted online marketing strategy – SEO is used to reach your target audience by increasing brand visibility and brand awareness in Google, which then generates quality traffic to your website and assists in the promotion of your organization online and performance in the Organic, Maps and Local search results of Google. Ranking your website at the top in Google for the products/services you offer is highly sought after by most all local, national and global companies wanting to scale their service or product offerings.
While the lasting benefits of real SEO are clear and agreed on, what the actual cost will be for executing an SEO strategy is likely to vary, and can do so significantly depending on the objective and goals of the company, along with what type of strategy is being implemented and by whom? Regardless of what your budget is, the costs associated with an effective, and profitable SEO campaign needs to be addressed as an essential and necessary investment for your business. And as it is with any important investment (one that can directly effect yours and your family’s future) – you are right in being concerned and methodical with building the highest possible ROI.
Before you go ahead and sign on the dotted line of any contract, you should be cautious and thoughtfully document what you are looking to accomplish with your SEO strategy. Having a focused mindset that is realistic and in alignment with your goals, will help you to successfully determine what is the appropriate budget to spend on the investment of your SEO.
For example: Let’s say your immediate goal is to increase sales by 20-30 percent within the first 6 months. Estimate what amount you would be willing to invest to achieve those results, and what the direct affect that will bring to the future of your marketing budget and avenue options. Based on our experience, an accurate principle is – the more aggressive and time sensitive your goals, the more it is likely going to cost to accomplish them.
Hire for Your Goals and Pay for Results
After establishing the SEO and marketing goals of your business, you should be better equipped to hire for your needs. When shopping for SEO, it’s best to consider all of your options and the costs associated with each of those options prior to making any decisions.
Choices can include hiring an SEO specialist or team internally, or contracting a dedicated SEO agency. Here are a few points to consider with each:
Internal Hires: Hiring an internal SEO specialist or team will be more expensive upfront due to training costs, but if you have a larger organization or a long list of strategies to implement, this is an option that you can consider for the long term. When finding the ideal candidate, note that they should have a wide range of skills that should include: link building, technical SEO understanding, content marketing, social media know-how, and an analytical mindset.
However, this can get very expensive and it is not uncommon for a veteran SEO to make over $100,000. In addition, you’ll generally need to hire a team to handle all of your SEO needs and not put all the responsibility on one employee.
Content Marketing Agencies: These agencies often offer SEO services as an add-on to their other service offerings, but since SEO is not their primary focus, you should ensure that they have the technical know-how prior to contracting. SEO costs associated may be more expensive, because their SEO services could be bundled within content marketing packages, but this can be an excellent option if your business is looking to accomplish a variety of marketing goals concurrently.
Dedicated SEO Firms: Firms solely focused on SEO, generally have the most industry experience as they tend to consistently use and practice the latest SEO techniques every day across different industries. Some bigger firms employ large staffs with specialists in many areas, which can help ensure that they can solve your SEO challenges.
In addition, these firms often offer a variety of services and pricing options to cater to the needs of your company, such as, monthly contracts, project based contracts, and hourly consultations. This option may be the better if you are handling very technical, individualized, project-based, or ongoing SEO specific needs.
How Much Does SEO Cost: SEO Payment Models
How much SEO costs your company will Seo cost and pricing infographicobviously vary greatly depending on the needs of your organization and the experience level of the service provider you choose, but you should expect to pay within these price ranges below based on service type you decide to move forward with.
Monthly Retainers and What You Get:
This is perhaps the most popular pricing model and the cost increases with the needs of your organization.
Unless you are a hyper-local company that has little competition and your site is very small, you should be careful when purchasing SEO for less than $500 per month. Most companies that work in this area automate a lot of their link building, use overseas labor for content, and only do basic on-site technical work.
This might work for a local pizza shop looking to rank for their name and show up in some local listing sites like Yelp and Google Local, but if your goal is to rank for a keyword that has competition, you should probably look into DIY SEO courses.
Smaller companies with low to medium competition and less complex websites can usually get by with paying this amount, but should understand that prices at the lower end of this scale could indicate inexperience or a lack of proven results. SEO requires consistent quality content creation, high-quality link building, and a strong focus on optimizing conversions, usability, and accessibility; it’s difficult to find all of these services, correctly performed, at the lower end of this scale unless you are working with an agency that has been in business for a while and knows how to produce quality at scale. Hiring a smaller company or individual at this rate can also be effective, but there are usually tradeoffs with quality or the amount of work that can be done every month; and it can be very difficult to find and vet those individuals.
In this price point, you can expect to find more established SEO companies with a proven track record of success in competitive markets. This price point can often give your company access to a dedicated SEO team that employs professional copy editors, content managers, conversion specialists, web development experts, link outreach specialists, account executives, and analytics experts that will ensure success and give you the support you need.
Companies with ambitious goals tend to work at this level with an SEO partner that manages the entire process from start to finish. Not only does your business get access to a senior SEO team at this budget, but this investment is likely to drive substantial results since the entire project is well-funded, providing more opportunities for your search partner to perform.
If the market you are trying to dominate has lots of competition, you can expect to make this type of investment for at least the first year or two. In fact, it’s not uncommon for companies to spend well over $100,000 a month on SEO if they are targeting the most lucrative keyword spaces.
À La Carte and Fixed Price Contracts (Contract Dependent):
Your SEO needs will vary depending on where you are with SEO today, the size of your site, your competition, and the your goals. Contracted services include: link profile audits ($2500-$7500) or higher depending on size of link profile, SEO/Website Audits ($1000-$3000) or higher depending on the size of the site and the depth of the audit, link building ($250-$2000 per link) depending on the quality and the tactic, per page optimization and implementation ($100-$250), and copywriting ($0.75-$1.00/word).
For example, if you have a solid strategist on staff and the resources for excellent copywriting and content, but your technical and link building capabilities are lacking, hiring an à la carte service may be the most effective solution.
Hourly Consultation ($100-$300/hr):
If you are considering working with a SEO consultant, you should expect to spend over $100 an hour for a professional worth your time that can generate results for your business. Certainly this price point will vary on the competitiveness of your market, but you should be wary of any consultant that seems “too good to be true.”
Remember, working with an SEO specialist is an investment and you shouldn’t cut corners, look for a consultant with a proven track record and attention to deliver the performance that you need. There are cheaper consultants out there, but they tend to be much less experienced and will likely take longer to get results, if they ever do.
Employee Costs ($50-120k+/yr):
Your organization may have ongoing needs that require specific attention that can only be handled internally, in this occasion, hiring an SEO strategist or manager may be the best option. SEO employee salaries, not unlike other salaries, range primarily on experience level and geographic location.
For example, an SEO director for a large tech company in San Francisco can make upwards of $200,000 a year. To get a better idea of what you should pay, search for SEO specialists using career sites such as Indeed or Glassdoor for your specific area.
Some of these solutions may not fit within your budget or be correct for every business, but remember that any options you choose should generate results based on your goals and over time produce a positive ROI.
Keep in mind the caveats that I mentioned above. In many cases it makes sense to have an SEO or marketing manager on staff, but if your goals are hefty, you can expect that your manager is going to need to outsource some of the work. That is especially true with Web copy and link building, since those tasks tend to be very specialized and time consuming.
How much would you expect to pay for a good SEO solution? What goals have you created that an SEO specialist or agency can help you accomplish? What do you think is the most important aspect in SEO to consider when finding the best solution?
About Michael Callahan
Michael Callahan is a marketing consultant, local SEO specialist
and Chief Operations Officer for SEOAmerica, Inc.